Hunter Prey (2010) – Directed by Sandy Collora – Starring Clark Bartram, Damion Poitier, Isaac C. Singleton Jr., Sandy Collora, and Erin Gray.
This will not be a long reaction to Sandy Collora’s 2010 independent film HUNTER PREY but I definitely want to bring this movie to your attention. According to the Never Wrong, this gorgeously shot and finely written and acted movie cost “only” $425,000, yet I think it’s a fine example of how it’s still possible to tell good sci-fi without a massive CGI budget.
HUNTER PREY is a thematic combination of Enemy Mine and the old, awful Star Trek episode, “Arena.” A ship has crashed on a desert-like planet and a prisoner has escaped. Three dudes who look like bad Boba Fett cosplayers need to track him down. Along the way, two of these commandos die, leaving Centauri 7 (Damion Poitier) alone to track down Orin Jericho (Clark Bartram) across the desert. Seven has an AI computer he talks to named Clea (voiced by the great Erin Gray), and a bounty hunter (Collora) shows up at one point to try and take Jericho away from Centauri.
Wisely, Collora has delivered a script (co-written with Nick Damon) that’s heavy on personal conflict, and doles out its twists and turns in nicely crafted character-driven ways. By keeping everyone in masks at the start of the film, HUNTER encourages us to side with the rebellious Centauri 7. His commander is a jerk and 7 seems to have that independent streak that people love in their anti-heroes. When the helmets come off, however, we see that the Centauri are albino-skinned aliens with a bit of a muscular human/reptillian vibe to their build, and Jericho, who’s robed in all black and wears a skeletal like mask of evil is actually human.
Not only is he human, he’s the last human because the Centauri killed all the other humans in the whole universe. This shift in perspective doesn’t need fancy CGI or a huge budget or big name stars to work; it’s a clever sleight of hand, using what we can see to misdirect what we will eventually see. When things like this happen in a movie, two things happen. One, I get pulled into the story, and two, I admire the production team that put it together.
The design, make-up, and costume folks do bang-up work, too. When I say that the commandos look like bad Boba Fett cosplayers, I don’t mean the costumes look bad, just that the look clearly has that Star Wars design vibe to it that Fett and the Stormtroopers have. The costumes look really good, though, and the make-up job on Poitier to turn him into Centuari 7 is spot-on – he looks like a real being, not like an actor wearing a mask.
There’s a nice philosophical debate in the film between 7 and Jericho over genocide. The Centauri wiped out humanity and now Jericho is trying to wipe them out to get his revenge. It seems odd, then, that after getting the best of 7 that Jericho would leave him alive, but the film eventually shows us that there’s a very real and important reason why he does this, and again, it makes me appreciate how this film has been put together. Almost everything here has clearly been thought out and thought through.
Collora seems very aware of what he can and cannot do in this movie and he plays to his strengths and minimizes his weaknesses. He’s using the RED camera which provides a very clean, very vivid image and so he lets the beauty and danger of the natural world work for him. If you’ve never heard of Collora, it’s possible you’ve seen his work, as he’s the dude who made the Batman: Dead End fan film a while back that pits Bats against the Joke, an Alien, and a Predator. Collora seems like a smart guy, and HUNTER PREY is a smart movie.
Which isn’t to say it’s perfect, because it’s not; the pacing moves way too slow for me at the start, it’s incredibly serious, and some of the dialogue is a bit cliche, but this is an admirable attempt, and the end result is well worth a look if you’re hunting around for something new to try on Netflix. I love watching the occasional 2-Headed Shark Attack as much as the next guy, but it’s also nice to watch something from the other end of the low-budget aisle. HUNTER PREY isn’t trying to win viewers over by having young, nubile women run around in skimpy clothes, or by using people who used to be more famous than they are now, or by resorting to gore. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but there’s nothing wrong with not using any of that, either. Collora has made a serious film that’s going to succeed or fail for you based on your reaction to the story.
For me, it works.